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African Plants Initiative

The African Plants Initiative (API) is an international project focused on digitization of previously unpublished botanical material of relevance to Africa. This material is made widely accessible for scholarly research purposes through the JSTOR Plant Science online resource.

A specimen of Colophospermum mopane (Leguminosae) collected by John Kirk in Mozambique

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was a founding partner of the API, which was initiated at the Congress of the Association for the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa (AETFAT) in Ethiopia in September 2003.  Dedicated digitization staff have been employed at Kew on API and its successors, the Latin American Plants Initiative (LAPI) and the Global Plants Initiative (GPI), since March 2004. 

A primary focus of the API project was the digital capture of label data and high resolution (600ppi) images of type specimens deposited in participating herbaria. RBG Kew completed the capture our own vascular plant type specimens collected in the African region in 2006 (c.70,000 records). Kew also received support for digitization of archive materials, notably the Director’s Correspondence collection. Archive material already submitted to JSTOR Plant Science includes over 7,600 letters of Africa-related material.  

In addition Kew has contributed digitized illustrations, archive materials, botanists’ slides and texts. The Flora of West Tropical Africa (FWTA), the Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa (UPWTA), Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA), Flora Capensis, Flora of Tropical Africa (FTA) and Flora Somalia were all digitized within the API project and Flora Zambesiaca (FZ) has also been made accessible through JSTOR Plant Science. Kew’s contribution includes over 1,200 original illustrations from Curtis’ Botanical Magazine. Additional material digitized at Kew includes photographs of artefacts from the Economic Botany collection, and papers from Livingstone’s Zambezi expedition.

For a more detailed account of the materials Kew has made available to JSTOR Plant Science within the framework of API and its sister projects LAPI and GPI, see the Global Plants Initiative.

Project funders

USA
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Project team

Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives

Eimear Nic Lughadha, Iain Darbyshire, Bryn Dentinger, Helen Hartley, Kat Harrington, Jonathan Krieger, Christopher Mills, Alan Paton, Anna Saltmarsh

Project Leader: